Vaccine shortages in developing countries are pushing refugees to the back of the queue, news agency AP reports.
About 85% of the world’s 26 million refugees live in developing countries struggling to vaccinate even the most vulnerable, according to the UN refugee agency.
For months the World Health Organization urged countries to prioritise immunising refugees, placing them in the second priority group for at-risk people, alongside those with serious health conditions.
That’s because refugees inevitably live in crowded conditions where the virus can spread more easily, with little access to the most basic health care or even clean water, said Sajjad Malik, the director of the UN refugee agency’s division of resilience and solutions. “They are really living in difficult situations,” he said.
Some countries, like Bangladesh, pinned their hopes on Covax, the global initiative aimed at vaccine equity. In February, it altered its original vaccination plan to include nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees in crowded camps on the country’s border with Myanmar. But so far, it’s received only 100,620 doses – less than 1% of its allocated shots – from Covax, leaving Rohingya refugees without.
Globally the initiative has delivered fewer than 8% of the 2bn vaccine doses it had promised by the end this year.
Even in countries where refugee vaccination has started, supplies remain an issue. In Uganda’s Bidi Bidi camp fewer than 2% of the 200,000 refugees have received a single shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with second doses in short supply after India stopped exporting them after its own cases exploded.
Other obstacles ranging from language barriers to misinformation about vaccines are exacerbating the problem.